It was my 14-week appointment with my midwife, and we chatted easily about our summer travel plans, which hospital I hoped to deliver at, and children’s names. And then came my favorite part—the moment when the midwife pulled out her little hand-held device that would let us hear the baby’s heartbeat.
Except that this time, for the first time in the dozens of visits I’ve had with five pregnancies over a dozen years, the midwife couldn’t find a heartbeat.
“Everything could still be OK,” she reassured me, as she sent me for an ultrasound. But the sharp intake of breath from the ultrasound tech as she turned on her machine told me that everything was not OK. My precious fifth child’s heart had stopped beating the week before. That night, I was admitted to a room in the maternity ward (complete with “Back is Best” and breastfeeding posters) so I could deliver the tiniest baby I’ve ever held. “He’s perfect,” the nurse said comfortingly. And it was true that he was fully formed; so miniature, and not missing a single detailed finger or toe.
But in my head, I thought, How could he be perfect? He’s not breathing.
And then, before I had even had time to process, a sweet boy we had fostered for more than half a year was suddenly moved out of our care, into a relative’s home. While I knew that this was best for him, my heart grieved the loss of a child I had grown to love and who had formed a special relationship with each of my other children. I was suddenly powerless to care or provide for him, and his departure further ripped at me. I wondered why love and grief had to be a package deal, and whether we would ever be able to risk exposing our hearts to another child in foster care.
To say that this has been one of the hardest seasons of my life would not be an understatement.
Loss is a powerful feeling . . . and with it have come regret, what-ifs, worry, questions, long nights of tossing and turning, and sudden tears at inopportune times.
But in my grief, God has not been far off. I have been gently reminded of verses like, “I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me” (Psalm 3:5), and, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today,” (Genesis 50:20).
And in blah, gray moments, truths that I always knew (but never needed as much as I do now) have been whispered to my heart. Whispers like:
- Just because you are no longer in control (or under the illusion of being in control), does not mean that I am not still very much in control.
- My hands are big enough to cradle your tiny, miscarried baby – and your foster son who now lives far away – and your sad heart. All at once.
- I still love you.
- I have not forgotten you.
- And I see you.
Grief sucks and the future is unclear, but the Bible speaks truth when it says, “God is near to the brokenhearted.” Somehow, I have been inexplicably comforted and encouraged even in the lowest places.
So I will continue to trust Him . . . even when I am swinging over the chasm between a certain past and an unseen future.
I know He won’t let me fall.